Don’t rush to own a home

2013-07-10 10:00

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Do your homework before buying because it could cost you more than you realise Owning your own home is not always the best investment, writes Neesa Moodley-Isaacs

When most young people start working, they have two main goals – to buy a car and to buy a home.

Both of these are big commitments and if you have not done your homework properly, it could cost you more than you realise.

Ewald Kellerman, head of sales at FNB Home Loans, says if you expect to sell your property in less than 10 years’ time, it may make more sense to rent due to the high transaction costs.

“People think that it is better to pay into a mortgage than to pay a landlord, but they don’t realise the real costs of homeownership. If you buy and then sell two or three years later, you experience a significant loss,” says Kellerman.

Kellerman says given the transaction costs, as well as the additional amount you would pay initially into a mortgage compared with rental, the

breakeven point is about 10 years.

In other words, only once you have lived in your home for at least 10 years does it become economically viable.

For example, on a property of R800?000, you would need to resell the property for R90?000 more in order to break even on the transaction costs alone.

One also needs to take into consideration additional homeownership costs such as rates and levies as well as maintenance costs, which are not usually paid by a tenant.

Kellerman says South Africa has a particularly high rate of ownership, while European countries like France and Germany, and even the US, have far lower home ownership statistics as these nations are comfortable with renting.

For example, in the US, only about 65% of people own their home compared with South Africa, where that figure is closer to 80%.

But owning your own home is not always about the money – there are emotional reasons as well.

There is a sense of ownership, people want to know they own the place where they live and cannot be asked to move.

There is also the cost of moving, which is not always a choice.

A landlord may decide to sell the property and you are forced to move out.

A good financial argument for buying is that a mortgage is also a form of forced saving.

While it may make sense to rent and save the difference between that and a mortgage, not many people have the discipline and end up spending the money they should be saving.

While there may be emotional reasons to buy your own home, make sure you understand the financial implications and don’t think that buying is always the best financial decision.


Praven Subbramoney, the head of collections at FNB home loans, provides questions all prospective buyers need to ask, especially if they are buying a repossessed property:

»?Is there a nonrefundable deposit payable? What is the percentage thereof?

»?Is the seller VAT registered? If so, who is liable for VAT?

»?How much time is allowed for guarantees to be provided?

»?What is the condition of the property?

»?Will alterations be done prior to transfer?

»?Is occupational rent payable? From when and how much?

»?Are there any prohibitions regarding the sale and successful transfer of the property?

»?What happens in case of breach of the agreement?

»?Who is liable to obtain compliance certificates and payment thereof?

»?Who is liable for payment of arrear rates and taxes/also pro-rata from acceptance until date of transfer?

»?Are there any special conditions you should be aware of?

»?Is the property vacant? If not, who would be responsible for any evictions of current occupants?

Going from renting to owning

Almost 50% of the home loans granted by Standard Bank last year were for first-time buyers who wanted to put their monthly rent payment towards their own asset or home loan.

Standard Bank’s head of Home Loans, Steven Barker, warns that there are certain costs you need to take into account when making the transition from renting to becoming a homeowner:

»?You may need to exit your lease or rental agreement early in order to meet the occupation date for your new home.

“A renter is liable for the rent for the months left in the lease, which means you run the risk of having to pay a bond and the rest of your lease payments at the same time.”

You may be able to sublet the rental property, but this can be done only with your landlord’s consent.

»?You will need to create a municipal rates, water and electricity account for your new home while still paying for the electricity and water in your last month of rental.

You may also need to pay a deposit on your electricity account, if it is not on a prepaid system.

If you have your own water and lights account where you rent, you can arrange to have that deposit transferred to your new property, reducing your setup costs with the municipality.

»?If you use a land line telephone, you can incur costs for transferring your land line or for installing a new land line connection. Find out if the previous owner has a land line and even a modem or internet router that can be transferred to your name so that you save on installation costs.

»?Calculate your moving costs. Depending on how much furniture you own and the distance between the two properties, you may need to use a moving company.

It is usually cheaper to book your furniture removal on a weekday in the middle of the month, rather than on a weekend at the end of the month.

»?Ensure that you make a snag list of things that are wrong in the rental property so that you know what amount may be deducted from your rental deposit for repairs.

»?You should also draw up a snag list for your new home to ensure that you don’t have to repair damage done before you bought the house. Ideally, you should include any required repairs in your purchase contract for the cost of the previous owner.

“It’s important to plan for these expenses before committing yourself,” says Barker.

“The last thing you want is to fall short on your first bond payment because you’ve been taken by surprise by the practicalities of your lifestyle change.”

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